Racial Homophily and Its Persistence in Newcomers' Social Networks
This study examined the formation and persistence of homophilous, or same-race, friendship ties among racial minorities and whites in a “newcomer” setting. Homophilous ties provide valuable sources of mutual support but may limit racial minorities' access to resources and information in organizations. Study participants were first-year MBA students who entered a program at the same time. We measured network ties at two times: six weeks after the beginning of the students' first semester in the program, and at the beginning of the following semester 3 1/2 months after the second survey. We also administered a separate survey measuring social identity salience prior to the first network survey.
Despite the fact that there were fewer same-race ties for racial minorities to choose from, their friendship networks demonstrated greater homophily than those of whites early in the formation of the network and over time. Also, African-Americans were more likely than whites to seek out homophilous friendship ties in other class sections. Race as a salient social identity group membership was positively related to homophily for African-Americans, Hispanics, and whites. Over the time period studied there was no significant change in homophily among the racial groups' networks, despite the explicit promotion of diversity in recruitment of students, formation of heterogeneous classes and teams, and active support by the MBA program administrators. We discuss the practical implications of our findings for organizations that are attempting to increase cultural diversity and promote active interaction among individuals from different racial and ethnic backgrounds.